“We exceeded expectations just by turning up for the exams.” 

J.K. Rowling

What are open-book exams?

An “open book examination” is one in which examinees are allowed to consult their class notes, textbooks, and other approved material while answering questions. Open-book exams allow you to take notes, texts or resource materials into an exam situation. They test your ability to find and apply information and knowledge, so are often used in subjects requiring direct reference to written materials, like law statutes, statistics or acts of parliament.

 An open book exam can also mean that students are provided with the exam questions prior to sitting the formal exam or are to complete as a ‘take home’ exam.

Two Types of Open Book Examinations- There are two kinds of open book exams:

  1. The restricted
  2. The free type
  • In the restricted form of open-book exam, the students are allowed to bring into the examination hall one or more books approved by the teacher. In the free type, students are free to bring anything of their choice.
  • In a free or unrestricted exam, the questions will be drafted in such a way the answers will not be found in any of the textbooks, handouts or class notes. An intelligent student who has had the experience of such examinations once will not bother to bring anything for the next test. In this form of exam, the student has to study and not memorize.

Advantages of Open Book Examination-

1. Less Difficult on Recall

In an Open book exam, students can check the books. So, they don’t have to stuff a lot of facts.

2. Provides the Second Chance

Students get a second chance to obtain knowledge. Also, they can gather suitable learning material rather than recalling it.

3. Enhances Retrieval Skills

It helps in remembering things for a longer duration. Also, students find resourceful ways to collect necessary information from different sources.

Disadvantages of Open Book Examination-

1. Not sure of Equality

It is difficult to judge whether all students have equally prepared for an exam or not. Also, some books are very costly and the library also has a limited number of books.

2. Need More Desk Space

The books and notes take a lot of space. Also, the desk needs to be bigger to keep the books.

3. Time-consuming

Sometimes students take a lot of time finding some topics. Also, they look for books rather than answering with their own knowledge and skills.

Impact on Learning Strategies

  1. Open book examinations promote the right mental set in both learning and teaching. The students will stop mugging to reproduce it in tests. 
  2. Open book examinations will effect a fundamental change in this attitude. It does not mean that students do not need to study for exams. It implies that they should understand concepts, and use them to solve problems.

Thus education becomes a pleasurable activity, not a painful drudgery. And what is learned with pleasure is assimilated more efficiently, and retained better.

Considerations when designing open book exams 

• Questions in open book exams need to be devised to assess the interpretation and application of knowledge, comprehension skills, and critical thinking skills rather than only knowledge recall 

• Make use of case-based exam questions that require students to apply critical reasoning skills in response to a trigger scenario

 • Devise clear and unambiguous questions to limit student confusion and time spent interpreting the question so students can spend their time making use of their textbook or memory aid to effectively answer the questions

 • Devise questions that require students to apply and make use of the information from their textbook or notes rather than simply requiring them to locate and re-write this information 

Misconceptions about open book exams

1) Open-book exams are a breeze

Open-book exams are not an easy option. Answering the questions well requires more than just copying information straight from texts. 

2) You don’t have to study

Probably the biggest misconception about open-book exams is that there is no need to study. You should study just as you would for any other exam. 

3) You can just copy straight from the book!

You can’t copy chunks of text directly from textbooks or notes. This is plagiarism. In open-book exams, the resource materials are made available to you, so you are expected to do more than just reproduce them. 

4) The more materials the better!

Don’t get carried away and overload with materials and resources in the exam—only take what you need. Stacks of books won’t necessarily guarantee your performance,  Carefully select your materials and organise them for quick reference.

Preparing for an Open Book Test-

  • Read the chapters well ahead and do not expect to Find quick answers during the test.
  •  Students must know where to look for the solution. One must observe the Headings and subheadings, and an outline of the structure of the text must be made in mind.
  •  Keep the Lecture notes in mind for themes. The lectures provide an overview of the concepts that appear on exams which is not always available by reviewing the book alone.
  • • Own notes should be made ready, and essential formulas or concepts covered in class should be written down.
  • • Constant and regular attention from a qualified and caring tutor is necessary.


 Open book examinations can restore the true meaning of the word education for both teachers and students. It is true that it will take some time and effort on the part of students and teachers to adapt themselves to the demands of open book examinations . But the changes will be inevitable. 


  1. Timesofindia

Written by –Avantika Pandey

She is a BBA Student from Indira Gandhi Delhi Technical University for Women.She is a young and  energetic girl who is always ready to learn new skills and enjoys writing a lot. Being a passionate writer, she not only writes but also encourages others to write.

Edited by- Shweta Mittal, Team SciComm